Trends in American Opinions about Jobs, 2010 to 2021

January 17, 2022

As the world enters the third year of a worldwide pandemic, Heldrich Center researchers are tracking how Americans, and the labor force specifically, are thinking about work and the economy, and how these opinions have changed in the past decade.

As part of the Heldrich Center’s award-winning survey series, Work Trends, a new research brief titled Trends in American Opinions about Jobs, 2010 to 2021 includes selected trend data about work, the job market, and job security. The brief compares findings from the fourth quarter of 2021 with key years during times of economic strife and growth, including August 2010 immediately following the depths of the Great Recession, January 2013 during the economic recovery, August 2018 as the economy expanded, and December 2020 in the week leading up to the administration of the first COVID-19 vaccine in the United States on December 14, 2020. 

As 2022 begins, American workers express the greatest level of confidence in finding new jobs if they need to since 2010, and a majority of the public now say it is a “good time” to find a quality job, a flip-flop from the fourth quarter of 2020 and 2013 as the nation recovered from the Great Recession. While optimism about the job market and job security is now high, and comparable to 2018, there are important differences in these opinions by age and household income that explain why some Americans still say they are very or somewhat concerned about the unemployment rate, the job market for those looking for work, and job security for current workers. 

“Two years into the pandemic economy, American workers express great confidence in their ability to find new jobs. This explains why so many are asking their employers for higher wages and better benefits and why others just quit their jobs in search of better opportunities,” said co-author Carl Van Horn, the Heldrich Center’s founding Director who has led the center’s polling for over 20 years. 

“While poll numbers in 2021 and 2018 are comparable, the devil is in the details,” Jessica Starace, co-author of the brief and Research Associate at the Heldrich Center said. “Asking Americans to describe their attitudes about various aspects of employment and unemployment, and disaggregating those opinions by key socioeconomic demographics, paints a clearer picture of economic attitudes as they pertain to jobs, and why Americans are split, even before the Omicron variant spread, or in times of economic expansion.”

The Heldrich Center’s award-winning survey series, Work Trends, has collected public opinion data on work, the workforce, education, and the economy since 1998. The survey findings inform employers, union leaders, policymakers, community members, the media, and academic communities about critical workforce and educational issues that relate to the emerging global economy. For more information and detailed reports, please visit here.

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